The Corbin family has poured all of their efforts into revamping a long-standing Calera winery.
Wineries like those in the well-known Napa Valley region in California have fascinated Donna Corbin for many years. “They just drew my attention,” she says of the vineyards dotting certain hillsides of the West Coast state. “I was just amazed you can tend those grapevines and turn them into beautiful fruit and from that … (make) something that’s for everybody’s palates.”
Her grandfather grew grapevines when Donna was a child, not to make wine, but to have the grapes.
Donna had attended a wine tasting at Vizzini Farms Winery in Calera years ago. That was her only connection to the business until October 30, 2017, when her family purchased the winery from the Vizzini family. “We were basically just looking for a family-owned business we could pass down to our children,” she says. “We came across Vizzini. It seemed like a very well-established business.”
And it was. Vizzini Farms Winery was founded in 2005 by the Vizzinis, who were second-generation winemakers that developed a love for wine at an early age making wine and cheese on the family farm with their grandparents, according to the winery’s website. The winery featured a tasting room and a bistro, a rare find among Alabama wineries, Donna says.
The business model the Vizzinis started, coupled its proximity to their homes, made the decision to buy the winery a no-brainer for Donna, Gary and their sons, Matt and Kevin, and their families.
“This is the closest winery to us,” Matt says. “We thought this was a great opportunity to expand it and make it for our family.”
With roots firmly planted in the community, the Corbin family changed the business’s name to Corbin Farms Winery, but has focused on continuing to serve and sell a range of high-quality wines not limited to muscadine varieties grown on-site. “Our identity as a winery is to provide traditional viniferas, which would be cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and pinot noir,” Matt says. “The state is saturated with muscadine and fruit wines. We do grow muscadine grapes here, and we also have a fruit orchard, but our focus and our goal is to bring those premium quality vinifera wines.”
Because growing certain grapes can be difficult in the local climate, Matt says the better option is to partner with supplier vineyards in the proper grow zones for each type of grape. Partnering with suppliers means Corbin Farms Winery can offer wines made with grapes from places like California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia and New York. The winery’s fruit wines – peach, pear, apple, blueberry and strawberry – are made with locally sourced fruit or fruit grown in the orchard on the winery’s 5.5-acre spread, just off Interstate 65 Exit 234 in Calera. “To improve the quality of all the products is the biggest thing,” Matt says. “We wanted to make sure we were doing things to the best of our ability to make top-notch products.”
Since buying the business, the Corbins have revamped the building and surrounding property, going so far as to replant the fruit trees and install a new trellis system for a new crop of muscadine vines. “We’ve invested not only our heart and soul, but also a huge amount of capital to bring it back to life,” Matt says. “We are a full-service restaurant – still called The Bistro – and we serve lunch and dinner as well on Friday nights. When we came in, it was a limited menu, but we revamped the menu. We worked with our chef who’s also our production manager to provide a larger variety of options.”
The Corbins plan to start hosting monthly wine and live music events, and they will continue to serve as a private event venue for weddings and other special occasions.
The Corbin family has ties to the farming industry and the military. Several family members, including Matt’s father, served in the Marines, Army and Navy. The family has farmed Alabama since the Reconstruction Era in the mid 1800s.
“Our family has a lot of experience on the farm and agriculture side of the business,” Matt says. They also infused capital into reestablishing the winery’s infrastructure, including high-capacity automation on bottling and manufacturing.
Other wineries in the area have been supportive of the Corbins’ efforts. “It’s kind of like a big wine family,” Donna says. “It is our passion.”
The family wants to repay the favor and show their support for fellow business owners in Shelby County. “Our focus is on creating opportunities for ourselves and members of the community,” Matt says. “We’re a small family business looking to grow in the community. We’re trying to grow and provide the community with a unique place to go.”
Corbin Farms Winery is located at 800 Highway 87 in Calera. Hours are Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sundays, 12-6 p.m. For more information, visit corbinfarmswinery.com or Facebook.com/corbinfarmswinery or call (205) 685-0655.
WHAT’S YOUR PREFERENCE?
Even the members of the Corbin family have favorite wines from their winery. Here’s what they each recommend:
Matt: Cabernet Sauvignon
Carley, Matt’s wife: Strawberry
Gary: Cabernet Sauvignon